Updates on Alex Jackson, Brandon Nimmo, Reese McGuire, and more.
Alex Jackson, OF, Seattle Mariners (Low-A Clinton Lumberkings)
Jackson was viewed as the best prep bat in the 2014 draft as his polish and power potential won over both draft pundits and the Seattle Mariners, who selected him sixth overall. Jackson is off to a slow start in his first full-season assignment, but even as he struggles it’s easy to see what people liked about him. He has a muscular build and a thick lower half. The build comes with the potential for bad weight, so he’ll have to keep up with the conditioning. At the plate, Jackson sets up with a slightly open stance and his hands away from his body. There’s some pre-swing noise with his hands, but he quiets it down once it’s time to load up for the swing.
The power hasn’t manifested itself in game action just yet, but Jackson’s plane and plus bat speed produce the type of loft and backspin that inspire hope that plus power will come. The power plane works as a double-edged sword as it does lessen the hit tool potential. Jackson’s swing path doesn’t leave a lot of margin for error, as his bat doesn’t stay in the hitting zone for too long. He loves to get his arms extended and can’t quite get to the hard stuff up in the zone yet. It’d be easy to hang a below-average hit tool on Jackson for those reasons, but I think it can get to fringe-average levels. He does have strong wrists, displayed some aptitude for the strike zone, and has enough bat speed to learn how to cover his main weakness up and in. In the field, Jackson has just enough foot speed for the outfield and a strong arm that pulls together a right-field profile.
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Updates on Rymer Liriano, Kyle Schwarber, Jesse Winker, and more.
Hitter of the Night: Rymer Liriano, OF, Padres (El Paso, AAA): 3-4, 3 R, 2 HR. Liriano has long been a favorite of scouts because of the body/athleticism/tools combination he projects. While he reached the upper level of the minors (and the majors for a cameo last season), he still has yet to show an approach at the plate that will allow that skill set to manifest itself. He was exposed last season versus major-league pitching, and his road to at-bats at Petco is now blocked with a full outfield, but a season in Triple-A to refine things isn’t the worst thing in the world for the 24-year-old.
Updates on Monte Harrison, Brent Honeywell, Tyler Kolek, and more.
Hitter of the Night: Monte Harrison, OF, Brewers (Wisconsin, A-): 2-3, 3 R, 2 HR, BB, K. The 2014 second-round pick delivered a strong showing in 50 games at rookie ball last summer. However, it’s been a rough start for Harrison in his first taste of full-season ball. He’s been exploited by more advanced pitchers and hasn’t shown the same patient approach he did in the complex league. His size and quick-twitch athleticism give him the potential for a premium power/speed combo, but having split time with football as an amateur has left him raw and unrefined at present. There will be days like this, where Harrison looks like the best player on the field and others where he looks lost, making for a long, but potentially rewarding developmental road for he and the Brewers.
Examining minor leaguers whose hot starts make them worth monitoring.
The full-season minor-league schedule has officially kicked off, and we’ve got a good week and a half’s worth of data to work off of now. And we all know what that means: it’s time to start adjusting our pre-season rankings to account for out-of-the-gate performance! Kidding, kidding. For the 52,472,832nd time, using minor-league stats lines for information on prospect status is a terrible, terrible idea. And using nine or 10 games worth of stats is a really terrible idea. Yet there’s still, somehow, a semblance of relevance here insofar as the early returns do affect our perceptions of players despite what we may tell ourselves. And when perception of a prospect changes, even in a small way and against our will, the trade and acquisition values we assign him in dynasty formats is affected. Over the next month as our assorted prospects for a run this season begin to formalize it’ll be these early season performances that inform our recency bias in evaluating prospects to target or sell.
So with caveats noted and demands for caution aired in full, let’s take a look at some interesting super-early performances, both from prospects already firmly on the radar and others who’ve shown some early signs off life from the depths of the prospect ocean.
Roman Quinn, CF, Philadelphia Phillies (Double-A Reading)
Quinn is a switch-hitting center fielder with 80 speed. It’s an easy burner 80 run, too; speed without effort. It plays both on the basepaths and in the field, but on both sides he’s excelling on raw speed and not polish. In the outfield he gets good jumps but his reads and jumps are below average. I still see an above-average defender because he can run down his mistakes. Quinn also has a plus arm, throwing very well for a center fielder. He has a compact, athletic build with a short upper body and short arms.
Quinn has a quiet approach at the plate, typically seeing a lot of pitches and fouling balls off. He has a strong idea of the strike zone and doesn’t expand his zone early in the count. It's a line-drive swing plane and plus bat speed. It’s a contact-oriented, front-foot swing and I see this profile playing well out of the leadoff spot—though it could also be dangerous at the bottom of the order where he could run often. This is a swing with a short and simple gather, load and stride. Quinn showed me good feel for the bat head and used the whole field, hitting balls where they were pitched and taking what the pitcher gave him. He handled velocity fine, but I do imagine these swing traits would leave him fairly vulnerable to plus spin and soft. That’s mitigated some by strong pitch-identification skills. It’s a more fluid and natural swing from the right side, but there’s a bit more leverage and pop from the left. The power grades out as well below average, which isn’t a surprise given Quinn’s size, swing plane and hitting mechanics. He’s certainly capable of punishing mistakes and should be good for 6-10 homers a year with a good amount of balls into the gaps. Bat speed and the ability to consistently barrel up balls will lead to extra-base hits. Further, Quinn’s wheels will turn outs into hits, singles into doubles and doubles into triples. He was a pleasant surprise. He’s got more bat than your typical 80 runner type. With small stature, well below-average pop and a speed-heavy profile there is some risk here. I see a role 55/above-average player as a switch-hitting, leadoff/sparkplug center fielder.